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Government Considering Appeal

A High Court decision released today has found that aspects of the previous government’s Special Education 2000 policy are inconsistent with the Education Act.

The court action, known as the Daniels’ case, was taken against the Crown in 1999 by a group of parents of special needs children.

The government is now considering its options following today’s decision, Associate Education Minister Lianne Dalziel said.

“Our concern is that the Judge did not confine his decision to special education, and his judgment has potentially serious ramifications for the education system generally. For that reason, the government must consider the option of appeal,” Lianne Dalziel said.

“This decision goes to the heart of the entire education system. It could compromise the education needs of all children by diverting precious resources away from them into a Wellington-based bureaucracy focussing on assessment.”

The Daniels’ case challenged the previous government’s Special Education 2000 policy. The case was put on hold while the present government reviewed certain aspects of the policy. The Wylie Report was received in July 2000, and the government acted on its key concerns resulting in a number of changes to the policy.

Justice Baragwanath acknowledged this in his decision: ‘There is no doubt that the developments have been significant’.

“The overall decision could reverse the momentum behind the establishment of the new Learning Support Network following the integration of SES within the Ministry of Education. Research is also underway on therapy provision for students with physical disabilities, with a scoping report due to be released within two weeks. We have also been developing funding mechanisms targeting magnet schools,” Lianne Dalziel said.

“The difficulty for government now is that we cannot ignore the serious implications of this decision - the implementation of which could take us backwards. Nobody wants a return to the previously haphazard and inconsistent funding system, and this decision raises serious questions, that may need the ruling of a higher court.

“I do feel for the parents of children who have been waiting for a decision on this case for many months. However, the court has not ruled on the circumstances of the individual plaintiffs which the judge may deal with in a further hearing to be held soon. I wish parents to know that the far-reaching implications of the decision leave me with no choice but to consider an appeal.”

Ends

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